Young Mexican, Esteban Abascal, CEO of Interamerican Foods – La Moderna USA, achieved a new accomplishment by receiving the “2020 Young Business Professional Award” during the 102nd Annual Cleburne (Texas) Chamber of Commerce Community Awards Celebration.
The award is presented annually by the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce to a business executive under the age of 40 who has shown leadership and commitment to the community to improve its quality of life by becoming involved in local projects, civic organizations, and community outreach programs.
“I have always believed that behind every successful professional, it is not just that person who receives the award. It is a whole team behind it. So, this recognition is also for my whole team. Congratulations to my managers, coordinators, every person who works in the company; this is for you,” said Abascal from the podium upon receiving the award.
The Mexican pasta producer headquartered in Toluca, Mexico, opened its first plant on U.S. soil in Cleburne in 2018. Under the leadership of Abascal Interamerican Foods – La Moderna USA has surpassed its goals in two years, despite the pandemic.
Among his business accomplishments, Abascal, 33, was able to build a united and strong team in all areas of the company, turned around the company’s net income after two years as CEO, got the company up and running 24 hours a day, seven days a week at full production capacity.
He also increased the company’s net sales by $25 million and partnered with major retail chains to produce its private label. In the e-commerce area, the company is growing with sales through Amazon and the ingredients and foodservice market.
Under Abascal’s leadership, Interamerican Foods has always been mindful of supporting the local community, contributing to the Veterans Assistance Fund and Operation Blessing assistance programs in Johnson County.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Interamerican Foods – La Moderna USA partnered with Railroaders to provide food to the Cleburne community and delivered more than 1,500 boxes of food products (pasta, cookies, flour) to Dallas Independent School District (DISD).
Together with the Mexican Consulate and the Hispanic Star Association, he has also supported the Hispanic community in the Metroplex.
Abascal has been with La Moderna for 12 years and started as an export analyst. Since then, he has demonstrated his leadership and business skills by moving up through positions such as export coordinator, then manager in the U.S., and later became global export director and sales director in the U.S.
Abasto Magazine spoke with Esteban Abascal about his goals during his time managing the Interamerican Foods – La Moderna USA Cleburne plant, his challenges during the pandemic, and his plans for the company’s business to continue to thrive.
Abasto Magazine: It’s been a little over two years since you were named CEO of La Moderna USA. How well have you accomplished your mission of growth in the U.S. market?
Esteban Abascal: I have always been a faithful believer that as we reach the objectives we set for ourselves at Interamerican Foods – La Moderna USA, they change again and adjust to the market’s needs, a process of constant growth. I believe that my mission within La Moderna USA is taking its first steps. I am determined to take the company to be one of the essential players in the pasta industry in the United States; it is a long road and a lot of work. Surrounding myself with the best team is one of my priorities.
I am satisfied with what we have achieved in these first two and a half years, as we have made inroads into markets we did not serve, and we are working every day to reach more homes in the United States. But, undoubtedly, we cannot get these achievements without alliances with commercial partners, advertising and marketing agencies, supply partners, and a product of the highest quality and service.
For me, the human relationship throughout the supply chain is fundamental to the growth of a company. I firmly believe that doing business has been evolving, and market needs and consumer habits constantly change. The market has become more sophisticated, and interpersonal relationships between consumers and members of a company have become closer. The new generations of Millennials and Centennials are consumers who demand greater closeness with producers and distributors and want to be aware of the whole process and the impact it has on the world and their day-to-day lives.
R.A.: 2020 was a critical year that hit businesses of all types and sizes in the U.S. economically. How have you dealt with the pandemic?
E.A.: In one way or another, the pandemic has affected the world economy, all industries, and businesses. While our (food) industry continued to operate non-stop for a single day throughout 2020, and our sales and rate of operation even increased because people needed food to prepare at home during the quarantine, the company faced many challenges of all kinds.
To name a few, we had to rethink our day-to-day operations to implement all the safety and hygiene standards that could keep our employees safe and healthy and free of contagion risks. Other important challenges were the supply of raw materials, stress and fear management of our personnel, high turnover, support for vulnerable and affected personnel, to mention a few.
I can say that after a year of pandemic and looking back, I am proud to see how all my team responded and as I told all our staff at the time: today, more than ever, we have a commitment to society and the country, consumers need us, and we must ensure that in a scenario of stress and difficulty we can give them the security that they will not lack food, remembering a little the shortage that occurred at the beginning of the pandemic.
One of my ideals and driving forces in life that I have shared with my team since day 1 of the pandemic is: “that it is in times of crisis and adversity that courage and character are forged, giving life to true leaders.”
R.A.: You told Abasto in 2019 that the biggest challenge of entering the U.S. market was how to manage to link the brand with generations such as Baby Boomers and later generations such as Generation Z and Millennials. To what extent have you achieved this?
E.A.: One of the challenges for Interamerican Foods – La Moderna USA, and the vast majority of companies in the food industry, is to achieve the link between brands and consumers, especially in a market that is constantly changing. The consumption habits of Baby Boomers are different from those of Millennials and Centennials.
One of the successes we have had with La Moderna USA is giving each of our brands its own identity. With that, develop a communication strategy aimed at different consumer groups, making them feel identified with the brand and making it part of their lifestyle. We want our pasta to be a product desired by the different generations of consumers we have.
R.A.: What are the challenges you face as CEO of La Moderna USA in 2021, and where would you like to go?
E.A.: We are in a time where we are coming from a powerful global shock, where CEOs of many companies would like to have a “crystal ball” to know how consumers will behave in a post-pandemic world.
The biggest challenges I face today are: that our customers and consumers continue to prefer our products; to provide the best possible quality and service; that our products continue to be a moment of union and joy among our consumers; and to maintain the bonds of collaboration that we generated with our different partners during the health crisis we experienced last year.
R.A.: What has been your company’s impact on job creation, trade, and local progress?
E.A.: 7.4 million pounds a month, that’s a world of pasta, and it’s impossible to do it without our people who come to the factory every day to continue to reinforce the commitment to bring food to American homes. Without a doubt, we are a significant generator of jobs in the area. And I am confident that we strengthen the community’s and Metroplex’s affection for the company and our brands every day. Also, we grew our labor supply by more than 40% during the pandemic, as the demand for our products required us to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
We have a commitment, and now more than ever, we want our customers and consumers to feel confident that our products will not be missing on the shelves. We want to continue to be a wealth generator for the community in Cleburne, the Metroplex area, and Texas, but throughout the country.
Article wrote by journalist Patricia Ortiz.